Is Tamil Nadu struggling with a huge sociological problem where parents and children are on two sides of a divide, forcing lovers to court judicial help?
Nearly a month after young Ilavarasan was found dead on July 4 near a railway track after a torturous love and married life which even saw a habeas corpus petition filed by his wife Divya's mother-in-law seeking her production, another love story ended up in the courts in Chennai, seeking judicial guidance, again via a habeas corpus.
The petitioner, Easwari Ammal sought the court's help in the production and custody of 20-year old Damini, who is the daughter of renowned Kollywood actor-director Cheran. Damini had earlier lodged a police complaint against her father, alleging that he was 'threatening' her boy friend Chandru, son of Easwari Ammal.
Cheran for his part has maintained in the media that he has genuine concerns over the eligibility of the boy in question, and that he is 'thinking and handling the issue as a caring father.'
A division bench comprising Justice V Dhanapalan and Justice CT Selvam heard Easwari Ammal's habeas corpus petition, and exhibited great sensitivity by sending Damini temporarily to the care of a veteran lawyer, and subsequently to the care and custody of the headmistress of Shri Shrine Velankanni Higher Secondary School in T Nagar for a 'certain period' .
The judges have spent hours listening to various sides of what is arguably an emotionally charged issue, factoring in the celebrity status of some of the parties involved, going so far as to say, "It is more important that certain forces should not play some role in the given situation.”
Experts say there are two main reasons why parents object to the choice made by their son or daughter.
One can be due to a genuine concern that the choice made is a wrong one. The other can be driven by issues of family pride and prestige.
In either case the methods chosen by the parents to tackle the issue are largely dependant on the family ethos and values. Legal experts say that after the habeas corpus petition in the Divya-Ilavarasan case, courts are even more careful, and extra sensitive in handling such cases.
"The habeas corpus petition is an important tool. If a person is missing or if detained illegally against his or her wish, it is usually a case of love affair or elopement, and in some instances, police make an arrest" explains a legal expert.
There are two things a court can do when someone petitions them to produce a person apparently 'missing'. First, it will ascertain if the detenu (the person who is to be produced in court) is a major. The other question is really the crux of the matter. Courts will ask the detenu where he/ she wants to live - would one prefer to remain with the parents or go with the lover/spouse.
Sociologists say that in the case of Divya, who hails from the Vanniyar caste and Ilavarasan a Dalit, caste forces were at play, and caught in the full media glare and political one-upmanship the chances of them leading a normal life as a couple was remote.
“Two or three deaths were expected, because there is no way an ordinary family can withstand such onslaught from various forces, pulling the couple in different directions,” adds a sociologist.
In the case of a father wanting a good match for his child, experts feel that it is not an unreasonable demand.
Meanwhile, Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) founder Dr S Ramadoss who has been vociferous in denouncing inter-caste marriages, has called for amending the Hindu Marriage Act, and make parental consent mandatory for girls wanting to marry before they turn 21 ( as per the Act, 18 years is the permissible age of marriage).
At a time when a growing number of men and women are studying and working together, Dr Ramadoss' call is unlikely to qualify as a 'Eureka' moment. A major cause of worry for parents objecting to love marriages is the fear that the marriage might fail.
When that happens what is required is an emotional and financial safety net to cushion the fall.
That's what society should offer—a safety net.